5 steps to save money for travel

The steps that we took to save money for travel. We weren’t making beaucoup bucks or cashing in on trust funds–we simply saved in an intelligent way and lived cheaply for over a year!


Saving money is undoubtedly one of the biggest obstacles to travel. Though some may spin the making travel happen as a simple matter of having the ~*PASSION*~ and ~*INSPIRATION*~ to make your ~*DREAMS BECOME REALITY*~, they are totally full of hot air and/or have trust funds that they’re not telling you about.

For the rest of us mere financial mortals, saving is the only option. Before leaving, Sebastiaan and I had to be very strict about putting aside money, and be strategic about how we spent our remaining funds. Here’s how you can do it, too:

1. Calculate your basic cost of living.

We calculated the bare minimum of expenses each month. We could save a bit more since we were living together, and thus split a lot of costs. In my breakdown below the figure given is how much I personally paid.

Income: €1750/month after taxes


  • Rent and utilities: €400
  • Health insurance: €100
  • Food: €50/week or €200 a month
  • Phone: €15
  • Unexpected costs: €200

So what are “unexpected costs”? An example: The government sent us tax bills for things I didn’t even realize existed approximately every freaking week every other month. I swear we paid the annual trash tax about twelve times in a year, but maybe that’s just me.

Moving on from the frustration of living in a Perfect Country funded by taxes, things such as medications, doctor expenses, contacts, etc. factor in to Unexpecteds as well.

It was hard to save money for travel while living in the Netherlands.

Living in the expensive Netherlands was a super massive money drain, thanks to boatloads of taxes and a high cost of living. We saved some money by avoiding paid outings in favor of biking (yay free transport!) to parks, beaches, etc.

2. Consider what is or is not cost effective.

Some people prefer to cut out absolutely everything except the barest of essentials when trying to save. On the plus side you save more money, but the downside is that you’ll most likely be absolutely miserable if all you do is work, sit inside, and eat only beans or pasta for dinner every day. If you’re clever, you can reduce the amount of money you spend on luxuries while still managing to enjoy a civilized existence.

Consider the cost of things versus how much entertainment/use you will get from them, or if they’re a long-term good investment. Some examples of my own reasoning:

Worth it:

  • Internet. This is the 21st century. One does not simply survive without internet. I definitely don’t.
  • Netflix <3 Aside from the fact that I am a Netflix addict (aren’t we all?), the service is insanely cheap for what you get. Netflix also sucks up all of your time, and makes you a lazy couch potato. Excellent for saving money! Every hour spent bingeing on House of Cards is an hour not spent doing something more expensive. And you thought it was bad to watch TV all day.
  • Running shoes. The need to save money meant that all of my exercise was going to be taken out of the gym into the outdoors, where the air is free and the sights are plenty. Running shoes are cheaper than a gym membership.
  • Frozen vegetables and legumes (for the health freaks). I was trying to eat healthy and save money at the same time, which was, quite frankly, a bitch to do. I’d like to thank bags of frozen peas, boxes of frozen pumpkin, and metric fucktons of lentils, canned beans, and rice for making it all possible! *Pageant girl wave*
  • Coffee at home. Coffee is pretty damned cheap when you make it at home. A 250g bag of coffee (that lasts for weeks) is the same price as a coffee in a cafe. Brewing coffee is not difficult, so quit yer whining, and you can pick up a cheap french press or coffee machine online.
  • Fresh stroopwafels at the market each weekend. We all need to splurge sometimes. Plus, they’re just really fucking tasty. The powers that be would not approve of your skimping on the ‘stroop.
Fresh stroopwafel Haarlem Saturday market

Stroopwafels, one of approximately four good foods invented by the Dutch. Oh sweet stroopwafel, how could I ever say no to you?

Woefully inadequate (not worth it):

  • The gym. Some gyms are relatively cheap, but mine was clocking in at around €50 a month. Thanks… no. A pair of running shoes was the same price as 2 months of the gym, lasted at least 3 times as long, and did not involve having creepy gym bros staring at you while you sweat like a pig.
  • Snacks and candy. Sebastiaan and I are suckers for all things snackable and sugary. Unfortunately, packaged snacks are some of the most expensive things you can buy at the supermarket. Don’t be a heathen, and allocate your stomach space to actual food, not snacks (we succeeded at this… most of the time). If you need to snack, buy cheap bulk snacks like popcorn, or sacks of apples from markets. Our wallets and waistlines appreciated this one.
  • Take out/delivery food. Shit is expensive and not actually good for you 89% of the time. By resisting the urge to order pizzas or Thai every time I was too lazy to cook, we saved hundreds of euros.

3. Calculate how much money you can save each month.

After you know what your basic cost of living is, and where you can cut expenses, calculate how much money you can save each month.

My basic cost of living: 400 + 100 + 200 + 15 + 200 = €915/month

I rounded that up to €1000/month, to be safe. Then, I gave myself €200/month for disposable income, so that I would still be able to do things/not go insane/not kill Sebastiaan because I went insane. That left about €500 (because round numbers are nice) to be put away each month.

To be sure that you will actually save this money, set up a savings account, and make sure that you transfer your savings to the account right after you are paid each month.

You’ll know just how much money you have left to spend, and it removes the temptation to spend your savings. DO NOT, under any circumstances, take money from your savings until it’s time to travel. If you do, hellfire will rain down upon you, the world will come to an end, and your mother will be very disappointed in you. Also, you will be more likely to pull money out of the account again, which is no bueno.

How to save money for travel

Alllll the monies saved! Dolla dolla bill$ yo.

4. Determine how much money you need for travel.

Now you can finally figure out when you’ll have enough money to peace out and roll out!

This depends on your destination, how long you want to travel, and the way you want to travel. Countries like Bhutan are going to require a hefty amount of cash, while in places like India you can slide by on mere pennies a day.

For our own travels, we’re assuming an average of about €1000/month per person for traveling on a shoestring, with occasional splurging. In our experience, you’ll miss out if you flatly refuse to spend any more money than absolutely necessary.

Sebastiaan: I met people who traveled like this in Laos. They were boring as fuck, and were never down to do anything; spending a dollar on a river crossing was “too expensive” for them. Even the Lao locals, who are very understanding of western budget travelers, thought they sucked. So don’t be a total penny pincher, and heed my words–as a Dutchman, I know a thing or two about being stingy.

We’re also aiming to travel as long as we can, ideally at least a year. We’ll try to save more by working or volunteering along the way.

Based on this, we decided to save for 1 year before leaving to travel, aiming to each have around €10,000 for the entire year. We each saved up about €6,000 by putting away money each month, which was then combined with previous savings, money from selling all of our stuff, the return of our apartment deposit, and our final paychecks (it feels victorious to not have to spend money on rent right after being paid). After all was said and done, we each had about €10,000 in savings for our travel.

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Larkhana and Moenjo-daro

We save money on our travels by visiting countries that are super cheap to travel in, such as Georgia or Pakistan.

5. Start saving money!

Now’s the time to start your plan… and stick to it! It can be a struggle at times, but once you get into the saving mindset, it can also be addictive. We recommend sinking your teeth into other tips for saving money for travel or learning about money-saving travel hacks to get you into the right state of mind.

To ensure you stay in that state of mind, let family and friends know you’re trying to save–it’ll be less awkward to pass on expensive outings, or ask to do something cheaper. Plus, they can give you shit if you ever start to slip and dip into your savings 😉


We admit it: it's hard to save money to travel. There's always some reason to give for spending your savings, and it takes some discipline to stay on track. But with a little determination, it's totally possible! We saved and lived cheaply for a little over one year, and ended up with enough money to go backpacking through Eurasia for at least 12 months.


Curious as to where we were actually trying to travel TO? What is Lost With Purpose will tell you all about it!


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Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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One thought on “5 steps to save money for travel

    chas says:

    This is one of the best breakdowns of how to finance traveling I’ve seen. Awesome post. I came to a similar conclusion of needing to save 10,000 to travel the world for a year. Not quite there yet but getting close ????.

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